II Easter

April 28, 2019

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The gospel lesson for the Second Sunday of Easter is always the story of Doubting Thomas.  I was bound and determined to not preach about Thomas today.  And, thankfully, the Lord led me to a different passage.  Of course, it was a passage from the Book of Revelation -- which is one of the Books of the Bible that intimidates me.  The sentence that stood out to me was one that I think bears reflection.  We read:

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” 

I would like to focus on three ideas which are presented in this sentence – the idea of being freed from our sins, the idea of the Kingdom of God, and the idea of the priesthood.

First, there is the way in which the sentence begins – “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…”  This is what we celebrated last Sunday on Easter Day.  It was the culmination of the story of Holy Week.  Jesus is betrayed by those whom He loves, given over to the secular authorities by the religious authorities, sentenced to death on the cross, dies, is buried and is risen from the dead.

Perhaps this is so commonplace in our Christian lives that we fail to think about it.  Perhaps we think, yes, Jesus died and was raised from the dead.  But why?  Why was this necessary?

What we believe is that in the beginning of creation, everything was in perfect relationship with God.  When we read the creation story at the Easter Vigil, we read that when God looked at His completed creation, He saw that it was “very good”.

What we also believe is that human beings messed up the perfection in creation.  Whether you choose to believe the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent literally or as an allegory, what the story portrays is that we human beings have a propensity to choose our own will over the will of God.

God loves His creation so much that He wants there to be a perfect relationship.  The Old Testament describes a series of Covenants that God tries to bring creation back into perfect relationship.  But, in the end these Covenants fail – not because of God, but because of humanity.  In short, because of sin.

What God decides is that the only way reconciliation is going to happen is for God to do it Himself.  How many of us have experienced the disappointment of others letting us down and finally deciding that if it is going to be done right, we have to do it ourselves?

This is why Jesus dies.  Jesus dies so that we might brought back into perfect relationship with God.  As the reading says, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…”

It would be nice if that were the end of things.  But it is not.  Because, just like any relationship that is worth anything, there is mutuality.  There is something expected from both partners in the relationship.  The reading goes on to say:

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father…”

This is where the ideas of the Kingdom of God and the priesthood come into play.  We are not simply called to say, “thank you Jesus for dying for me, see you in heaven.”  We are called to live in the Kingdom of God.  We are called into a priesthood.

This is where people have differing opinions.  Is the Kingdom of God something which is to come, or is it something which is already here?  Being a good Anglican, I would say that both are true.  Since we are talking about God, it is possible for something to be in a state of completeness and progress at the same time.

What I mean is that God has brought His Kingdom into being because of Jesus, but we are also called to live a life of those who are in the Kingdom which helps His Kingdom to be seen by others.  And we are called to do this so that others will want to be a part of the Kingdom, and so it spreads.

To do this, we need to understand that we are all called to be priests in the Kingdom.  This is living out our Baptismal Covenant.  How fortuitous that today we are going to be baptizing someone into the Body of Christ.  By the time Skylar leaves today, she will be a priest in the Kingdom of God!  That is something awesome to think about.

As we Baptize Skylar today, and we renew our own baptismal covenant, let us remember that what we are promising are signs of the Kingdom of God and our calling into the priesthood of all believers.  And then, let us go out into the world and live that truth.  AMEN.